The weather gods shone on the speedway family on Easter Sunday so that weeks, if not months, of planning did not go to waste, as the Hammers made a return to track action after an 18-month hiatus.
The meeting report is available here but what else did we learn from the experience?
On reflection, we think the most important thing to say, is that there is still an enthusiastic appetite for speedway in Kent and that there is still a large number of people, almost exclusively volunteers, who will put in an enormous amount of effort to make the sport happen at Iwade this season.
From our point of view, we were proud and delighted to be invited by the new Royals promotion to be their first visitors to the Old Gun Site and we made it a priority to help Si and his team to promote the meeting as best we could.
When it came to the make up of our side, the only request made of us was to comply with this year’s NDL 40-point limit but with Mildenhall also running a team event, some riders that we would have definitely invited were immediately unavailable and with the Berwick Bullets racing Armadale till late the previous night, we couldn’t consider inviting any of those riders.
Nevertheless, until very close to the meeting, we had secured the services of seven riders, all of whom were committed to donning the crossed hammers for the day.
Unfortunately, Jordan Jenkins suffered significant mechanical and transport issues on his way back from Redcar on Good Friday night which, eventually and after lots of effort on his part, resulted in him not being available.
Running Rider Replacement (RR) in a Challenge fixture may have looked bad and it wasn’t part of the plan but, rest assured, the 4 riders who got some extra, early season laps in were delighted and the seven points accrued from RR wasn’t a bad return at all. Whether we would have won with Jordon in the side, we’ll never know but we can only believe we would!
Nevertheless, we were absolutely delighted with the final make of the team – riders from 4 different NDL clubs, two former graduates of the Hagon Shocks Academy at Lakeside, a rider looking to make a comeback (mission accomplished there) and two exciting 15-year-olds at reserve – for a development league fixture, we think we ticked every box.
To take the meeting to a last heat decider was a perfect outcome even if the final result didn’t go in our favour. The team make-up of the 2022 Royals is full of Hammers favourites – remarkably Alfie Bowtell has won his last 8 Tunnel Trophy rides, 3 for the Hammers and 5 for the Royals and Danno Verge hasn’t ever lost a TT fixture!
The delays caused by unforeseen issues such as the first bend air fence deflating and the green starting light malfunctioning were frustrating, inconvenient and probably expensive for the Kent promotion and, it must be acknowledged, some fans but if those issues had occurred at Central Park with its 2-hour curfew, the meeting would have been abandoned, probably around heat 10.
The pressure on riders, mechanics and officials to complete a meeting is definitely reduced by the absence of a curfew. The atmosphere pit side was more relaxed on Sunday as a result and we’d argue that this is a more positive environment for riders learning their trade to develop in. The Royals are obviously keen to provide more racing for fans to enjoy which is another positive and, once again, something else that couldn’t have happened at CP.
We certainly hope to track more Hammers teams this season. We want to represent Thurrock as often as we can as it is an important part of our campaign to return the sport to the borough so, the more we can do to demonstrate a desire and passion for speedway, the better.
We’d like to thank every Hammers fan who attended the meeting on Sunday and to Lakesidelive for their fantastic coverage. We also appreciate those people who liked, shared or commented on any of our pre- or post-meeting social media posts. It all helps to keep our name out there!
Finally stay tuned for our new Hammers Hoodies – landing soon!
Mark, Russ & Ian.